"Good service," Anur said quietly to Kir as the temple failed to clear. A few remained behind to pray, but for the most part people just didn't want to go back into the bitter snowy cold. No storm, unusually enough, but still freezing and snow covered.
Kir had a wondering sort of gleam in his eye as he looked at the altar, the Ever-Burning flame crackling cheerfully. "I didn't light it," he murmured.
Anur blinked, "What?"
"I didn't light it," Kir repeated, keeping his voice down but his entire expression had lit up at this point, a smile growing across his face, "Anur, I didn't light it!"
:No one lit the fires this year,: an unfamiliar voice echoed in their thoughts, everyone in the temple falling silent immediately and turning to Anur, who held up his hands and said, "Not me!"
A warm chuckle, and the fire flared, a massive cat leaping down from the sun-drenched flames and settling at the base of the altar, tail wrapped around his paws. Even if Anur hadn't ever seen Kir's Cat of Fire, had never been shown rough sketches done by the twins, he would have somehow known what this Cat was.
:I am Hansa.:
As one, everyone in the room kneeled; Anur still thought that his original idea as to what a Firecat was would be more awe inspiring though.
:No, no, my kin. Do not kneel to me. I am no Son of Sun – and even she, long may she shine, would refuse your gestures. It is I who should kneel to you, faithful followers of the One God, who have shone so brightly. Please, rise.:
The Cat waited until they'd all regained their feet before continuing, :I come bearing glad tidings. Solaris has Ascended, a True Born Son of the Sun has Risen, long may she shine. And We thank every one of you and yours for your faithful service towards this glorious day.:
A tap of his paw on the ground and in a curl of flame, a seal and ribbon bedecked scroll appeared on the altar, the Cat looking over to Kir with gleaming blue eyes and he said, :I look forward to seeing you once more in Sunhame, brother.:
And the Firecat vanished in a mote of sunlight.
Everyone was silent as Kir took the few slow steps back to the altar, taking the scroll and cracking the seal, reading the message quickly before hesitantly relaying, "I am to report to Sunhame the moment the roads clear sufficiently, and will likely remain there. A replacement will be sent."
At last, there was chaos.
Captain Ulrich had, with assistance from Sergeant Greich's bellow and stern glare, quickly settled the majority of the shouting and told the unit that matters were going to be discussed calmly by a small group and then they would be informed of the decision. The small group wound up being the usual informal council, consisting of the three initial conspiring Sunsguard officers and Kir and Anur, all convening in the sacristy where they found seats on benches or perched on tables, Kir pacing the length of the room with the summons left open next to Anur.
"I don't like the idea of a replacement," Greich said finally, clearly saying what the other two had struggled with wording and definitely relaying the majority of the sentiments Kir had managed to pick out from the sudden explosion of noise. "To be perfectly honest, the boys love you, Father Kir and anyone sent to take your place will face one hell of a time, picked out by the new Son of Sun, long my she shine – and that phrase will take getting used to, let me say – or not."
"I don't like the idea of leaving," Kir confessed, interlacing his hands in the small of his back to keep them from trembling as he walked, "There have been… veiled hints, in the letters, that I may be called to Sunhame, but to be there permanently…"
"What if you were given an acolyte?" Anur suggested, the four Karsites turning to him with raised eyebrows and he shrugged, "You don't want Kir to go, but quite frankly, he has to. If we're going to get this Valdemar alliance above board, if we're going to get the Firestarting Order reformed, Kir needs to be in the center of it. I don't want to go either, really, as much as Sunhame is supposed to be beautiful, I was quite happy as a border-post Herald because it let me avoid court politics, and this is even worse because religion is involved. And worse than that, it's a religious revolution. An acolyte means Kir's not really replaced, that he still has a place here, is the chaplain, but lets him leave without depriving you of the services of a priest."
"So it would essentially be what we do now, except with longer absences and someone to conduct services while he is away," Ulrich mused, "I can sell that to the men, and can accept it as a solution, so long as there is the understanding that Father Kir's home is with us, so long as he wishes it."
Kir felt his throat close up at that and blinked rapidly to avoid going misty-eyed – thankfully, the others allowed him a moment to regain his composure. To think, in a mere five years he had gone from waiting for a knife in the back to having them fight to keep him. The captain had hit the nail on the head, he truly considered the 62nd his home, had for almost his entire service though only relatively recently had it truly become a home and not just a home-base. He didn't want to lose that, revolution in Sunhame or no.
"I would be honored to remain chaplain for the 62nd," he managed to say.
"Don't be so down, everybody," Greich chimed in dryly, "We are all, after all, likely to be on the forefront of Valdemar-Karse relations. We're somewhat experts on it now. And there's still Hardorn to deal with, on top of all this revolutionary nonsense."
Leave it to the sergeant to brush off years of impatient struggle after centuries of oppressive rulership as simple nonsense, Kir thought wryly, the chuckles circling the room suggesting he wasn't alone in his observation.
"Now here's the real question," Janner finally spoke, "How are we going to convince the men not to march on Sunhame and demand their priest back? They'd at least try it before it occurred to one of the hotheads that maybe marching on a Son of Sun with a Firecat on call is a bad idea. We're not exactly used to miracles being an obstacle, or being a consideration at all for that matter, Father Kir's flames aside."
"There is nothing miraculous about my flames," Kir refuted immediately, shying from the memory of the false Cat of Fire and the true miracle he had faked. He had learned his lesson, had asked for help and had received it. He had to let it go.
"As for the actual question," Anur smirked, "That's easy. Tell them Kir's not going to be replaced, he's just needed in Sunhame to glare at people when they argue overmuch and once the idiots get in line he'll be back until they forget or he needs to set something on fire and heads out again. In the meantime, they get to break in the new Sunpriest to the idea that Valdemarans aren't all that bad, and the Sunsguard don't need to kowtow to a priest that throws his weight around needlessly."
Greich started chuckling, "Tell them they're the gauntlet! Oh they'll love that – especially since I made them lighten up on Nichter a moon or so ago."
Kir carefully ignored that last, instead saying, "I don't think we'd be sent a particularly troublesome rep – acolyte," he corrected, seeing the sharp glares sent his way, "So there won't be any need for truly harsh measures, but…" here his lips twitched, "I suppose the shock factor alone will be rather amusing."
"I'm sure one of the lads has decent artistic ability," Greich smirked, "Perhaps we'll get a sketch for posterity."
"It's agreed then?" Ulrich spoke after their amusement subsided, "Father Kir answers the summons on the understanding that there will be no replacement until he wishes it so, only an acolyte to serve as basic chaplain during his absences? And potentially a clause saying that we are only sent those that have a decent entertainment value?"
"I think we'll cut the last clause in official communications," Kir replied dryly, feeling a surge of affection for this ridiculous unit he had somehow come to call his own. Even as Janner disparaged the other men of the unit as hotheads who would march on Sunhame without a thought to the consequences, the fact that these three even dared to consider questioning an edict of Sunhame, dared to put conditions on their compliance with an edict of Sunhame – it was a step in a direction he wasn't entirely certain Solaris had intended for this revolution of hers to go.
But it was a step he was so very, very proud they had made.
Because it was one thing, to profess unthinking obedience, unquestioning loyalty, to one's God, to one's ideals. It was another thing entirely to profess unthinking obedience and unquestioning loyalty to another person, even a person chosen and favored by that same God, following similar ideals. Somehow these three, this whole blessed unit, had come to realize that distinction, to understand that fine line and to realize that it was their duty, their responsibility, to ensure that those in power, those placed into power by the will of their God, did not forget that though they had the blessing, they did not have absolute power. Only one Being had that, and no matter how exalted, no human was equal to Him.
And he had somehow become very, very distracted from the fact that they were in the middle of trying to actually come to a decision.
"I concur, and will write it out with appropriate wording," Greich supplied, "I've written enough of the blasted formal notices to know the language, and it will probably be better received coming from a member of the unit rather than Father Kir himself."
"And then we two will sign it," Janner inclined his head towards the Captain, "That should be sufficient to at least bring notice to the fact that we're not letting Father Kir go so easily."
"Should it be necessary, I'm sure every man in the unit would sign the same thing," Ulrich agreed, a small smile on his face, "Now, let's go sell this to them. And get you both some better armor, your current stuff is a little worn. Can't have two of our own representing us in Sunhame with shoddy armor!"
"Can't have two of our own in Sunhame with shoddy armor," Greich snorted, heading for the door, "Place was a vipers nest, now they've gone and kicked it full of holes and hornets – it's going to be ugly."
"Yes, this is definitely making me want to go," Anur groaned, "Can I pass?"
"I think not," Kir replied crisply, clapping his friend on the shoulder, "I have plans for you as a human shield."